Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Workshops that work harder

What can I say? It's been too long since I've posted. My bad. With stuff going on, and in the case of snowstorms, stuff coming down, I've been easily distracted. So I'll mount a comeback baby steps at a time.

The first one? What is it that makes for a memorable workshop or seminar?

I recently moderated a workshop that asked this question. It was at the Drexel LeBow School of Business, and the goal was to develop as many new ideas for alumni programs as possible. Our objective was to figure out new ideas for events that Drexel alums would want to attend and perhaps talk about afterwards. We began the brainstorm with some basic questions around the elements that people believed contributed to events like a workshops or professional development events that people remembered and found valuable. The results were so basic and fundamental to what we humans look for in events like these, I thought I'd share them:

1) A great opening
Seems obvious, but many participants spoke about great events they've been to in the past that opened with a bang and never looked back. Sometimes, the first 15 minutes of a presentation can dictate its success. So it's worth taking the time to figure out a great "ice breaker" to get things rolling. Is there a great opening exercise, even a silly one, that gets people to exhale and relax?

2) Active engagement
Don't just leave the audience sitting there. We talked about how programs we've been to got us moving around, mingling as a way to get everyone engaged. I attended a Fast Company event in Florida a while back where they sent me an attendee package in the mail with information and a Burnt Sienna Crayola crayon. i was to bring the crayon with me to the event and seek out other Burnt Siennas in the crowd. The tactic got me engaged, and I was able to meet dozens of other attendees in search of my group. Fun tactic.

3) Learn something you didn't already know
Again, pretty simple. But difficult. In planning you're event, can you see to it that everyone who attends will learn at least one thing they didn't know before? Recently, I attended an Innovation Summit in Philadelphia and discovered that after attending two of the workshops, I was able to scribbled at least three insights or pieces of information I wasn't aware of or found valuable. The event for these reasons was worth the time spent.

4) An unexpected delivery
One of the attendees at the LeBow brainstorm talked about how at a motivational workshop, organizers included a Baptist preacher to address the crowd. The attendees were blown away by the unexpected tactic and seeing someone they wouldn't normally expect to see at such a corporate event. Does your workshop have that kind of "wow factor?"

5) Shake off the baggage you walked in the room with
Let's fact it, workdays aren't what they used to be. For most, they're jammed with stressful meetings, new business meetings and exhausting challenges that can take a lot out of you. People attend professional development workshops or seminars to be energized and uplifted with new possibilities. Fresh perspectives. Of course, people need to learn and find value in programs, but presenters and speakers need to help people lighten the load they walked into the room with. Give me reasons to lean forward in my chair, get excited and get back out there with a renewed spirit. Perhaps delivering useful information and helpful insights in an entertaining way is the way to go. Sometimes, all people want is an escape, so why not give it to them?

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